Tuesday, 10 November 2015

It's only a game

Last night in Westminster six hours were devoted to debating the Scotland Bill, which purports to be the implementation of the Smith Commission proposals.  The amount of time seems rather restrictive for such a large topic, and indeed Angus Robertson was rudely cut off halfway through a speech.

It was interesting to note that the benches were largely empty for the debates, with the majority of MPs appearing whenever a vote was required.  There is definitely scope for a change to the Commons procedures to insist that those voting on a given matter must have attended the debate, which seems only fair.

One of the major events was that Labour MPs voted with the Tories in defeating an SNP amendment to the Bill which would have seen power over tax credits devolved to Holyrood.  Given that Labour spent last week hounding Nicola Sturgeon to say what action she would take to obviate the effects of the tax credit cuts for Scots, following Kezia Dugdale's announcement of her Big Idea (so far uncosted), that one has to marvel at the disconnect between the Scottish branch office and the Parliamentary Labour Party.

It appears that in Westminster, the Tories and Labour are engaged in what is to them a game, where points are scored by defeating your opponents proposals because they are your opponents and not because you think what they have proposed is necessarily a bad idea.  To them these games don't relate to anything in the real world.

To the ordinary punter on the street, however, this is their lives.  To them it will seem that Labour sided with the Tories in preventing Scotland from having control over tax credits, which could have protected Scots from the worst excesses of the cuts.  All the fine words in the world from Ms Dugdale and Jackie Baillie about 'mitigating the cuts' are going to sound like so much hot air.  Your average punter doesn't care about the points-scoring.

More worryingly, both Iain Duncan Smith and David Mundell (the latter asked a direct question by Mhairi Black) have refused to confirm that any compensatory payments from the Scottish government to people affected by tax credit cuts will not be immediately clawed back by the Treasury as 'additional income'.  Where does this leave Ms Dugdale's Big Idea?

Labour has, I think, written its epitaph in Scotland.  The proof will be at next year's Scottish elections, where I fully expect to see their vote collapse, much as it did in May this year, all because of the utter stupidity of their MPs, who can't seem to see beyond the Westminster bubble and the games they play there.

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